The Litchfield Files: Lolly Whitehill
Some people clearly don’t belong at Litchfield. For example, those who are arrested and sentenced for petty crimes that look amateur against Frieda’s penis-chopping tendencies, or those who end up behind bars because society has failed them. Lolly Whitehill (Lori Petty) belongs to the latter group. She’s been arrested for a whole array of offenses, none of which were that offensive: public vagrancy, nudity, solicitation, disturbing the peace. Nothing that should have landed her at Glitchfield. She tends to have an air of urgency about her, a constant anxiety she often hides behind nervous babble and quirky behaviour. She’s a genuinely kind-natured, quirky middle-aged woman who wishes to ride unicorns but usually ends up fending off dragons instead; a lot of dragons.
At first, Lolly could easily be written off as someone who read a few too many David Icke books, when the truth is her paranoid delusions and hallucinations are very real indeed; at least to her. The voices in her head warn her of the secret conspiracies at play, regularly reminding her of the many people and entire corporations set out to harm her, kill her, even. Fortunately, her good heart and her compassion help her filter out her mind’s confusion, allowing her to, at least superficially, trust in others enough to form loose bonds. She knows the voices that are telling her the world is against her don’t actually exist, but “that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say”. On a bad day, she finds herself giving into her fear and loneliness, completely cutting herself off from others and plotting her own schemes of escape and methods of self-defence.
Lolly once pursued a career in journalism, until her focus became entirely devoted to local as well as national conspiracies her newspaper was not interested in publishing. It is not clear whether delving into these reports sparked the first trigger in her psychosis, though it is suggested that the first voice makes itself heard following a confrontation with her editor. She didn’t seem to have a great support system around her and ultimately ended up living in an abandoned truck she complements with tarps and crates. She sold coffee from a shopping cart lovingly decorated with sunflowers and a sign reading “You Know More Than You Know”. The whole neighbourhood knew her and eagerly awaited her each morning with their mugs extended and a quarter at the ready. Her methods may not have always seemed logical to others, but she knew how to help herself in her own environment. With the help of a hand-made magic wand full of bells and bottle tops, she would drown the voices out several times a day, giving her a sense of control and security. The loud, rattling noises seemed to peacefully exorcize her unwanted friends from her mind; if only for a while.
Like many others suffering from mental disorders, she finds herself in a vicious cycle: the cruel, haunting chatter inside her head stops her from being able to think and act rationally, but the medicines take away her only sense of self. Having been raised by a mother who heard the angels sing, counsellor Healy has found a special place in his heart for Lolly. Ridden by guilt for having insisted on his mother continuing therapy (the shocking kind, we assume) and ultimately driving her away because of it, he sees a way of redeeming his past mistakes by helping Lolly. The vulnerable are quickly overlooked in Litchfield and, upon realizing that he had failed many an inmate in the past, Healy does right by Lolly. When everyone else writes her off as crazy, Healy makes time for her and ends up becoming her only voice of calm and reason. In his presence, Lolly often finds serenity and is able to express herself in a manner that suggests she has found her own way of understanding the chaos within her mind.
When Lolly found Alex being strangled by Kubra, she did not hesitate to beat the living daylight out of him, repeatedly stomping on his throat. It almost seemed as though she was forcing years and years of pent up fear, paranoia and anger out her system, all of which seemed to disappear as soon as she felt she had eliminated the threat. Her conscience and concern about the possible consequences she could suffer for her actions don’t kick in until days later and, by that time, she can no longer distinguish between it having been a reality or just another story her constant mental companions cooked up. The stress of the situation weighs heavily on her and agitates her persecution complex. She finds comfort in building a time-machine made out of cardboard boxes and aluminium hoses in a hidden corner of the prison’s laundry room. But other than wanting to stop Jimmy Carter from ever starting FEMA, she can’t think of an exact point in time she would want to return back to.
“I have no moment everything went wrong. Unless it was the moment I was born with that sickness in me.”
Lolly’s psychosis speedily intensifies in Litchfield’s increasingly lonely and tumultuous environment. But, fortunately, she has found a friend in Healy. A friend who does not judge and has taken it upon himself to care for her and protect her until he no longer can. Lolly’s story sheds light on a system that does not serve those in need of psychological and emotional support and, instead, partakes in the deterioration of already vulnerable minds. Litchfield does not believe in the correct psychological evaluation of their inmates and Jimmy Cavanaugh, Suzanne Warren and now Lolly Whitehall are the perfect examples of their failure to tend to those who need more than bunk-buddies to look out for them.
Commissioned by Paste Magazine